Wednesday, July 31, 2019

An Interview with J. C. Kenney by E. B. Davis

Murder takes a page out of a killer’s playbook when literary agent Allie Cobb becomes her Indiana town’s number-one bestselling suspect . . .

Running the family literary business while preparing for her best friend’s wedding, chairing a park planning committee, and getting her rescue cat to bond with her boyfriend’s golden retriever doesn’t leave Allie Cobb much time for crime-solving. But when the guy who stood her up the night of her high school senior prom is killed and dumped in a pile of mulch, Allie’s suddenly the prime suspect.
It’s insulting enough that gambler, drunk, and all-around lowlife Georgie Alonso was found on the site of the memorial park honoring Allie’s deceased father. Now she’s fighting to clear her name and hold off a rush to judgment. But politics, decades-old secrets, and a slew of high-profile suspects make dangerous bedfellows as the eve of the park’s grand opening draws nearer. She’ll have to nab a killer soon, before her storybook life gets a bad ending . . .

I read J. C. Kenney’s first book in the Allie Cobb mystery series, A Literal Mess, earlier this year, but Grace Topping beat me in getting an interview with him. A Genuine Fix continues Allie’s adventures in her small hometown of Rushing Creek, Indiana where she took over the literary agency started by her late father. Because the population is under 3300 people, everyone knows each other and their business, which makes for interesting circumstances in the case of murder.

Allie’s sidekick is her tortoiseshell cat, Ursi. Her boyfriend’s work keeps him out of town except on the weekends. Her sister runs a restaurant/pub. Her best friend trains for her trail runs. Her brother is the town’s superintendent of the parks department. Her mother is the local doctor. In short, Allie is the only one who doesn’t have a typical job, and her best friend is too busy. Allie can arrange her work to suit murder investigations.

When Allie finds the body of a guy she had bad experiences with in high school, and, of course, everyone knows about them, she becomes the number one suspect. The Chief of Police is her sister’s ex-husband, which can make dealing with him problematic. But Allie also has her cozy side and creature comforts that take the edge off her investigative discoveries.

Please welcome back J. C. Kenney to WWK.                                  _____                                     E. B. Davis

Sloane, Allie’s best friend, is marrying Allie’s brother, Luke. Does that make Allie uncomfortable? If anything happened, she’d probably lose her BF.

She couldn’t be more thrilled. Sloane’s had a crush on Luke for years and Allie’s always thought they would make a great couple. Allie also wants Sloane to be happy. If Luke makes her happy, Allie’s all for it.

They go to the Brown County Diner, where the pie varieties are seasonal depending on what fruit is in season. Does Indiana have cooking apples? Green and so tart sugar must be added. They don’t taste good to bite into. Like Rambos?

Indiana definitely has cooking apples, but they don’t come into season until September. My wife has an apple peeler/corer that she uses to make apple pies and cobblers. Her apples of choice for cooking are Galas.

Angela Miller, the diner’s owner, is running for mayor against the incumbent Mayor Larry Cannon. Why is Allie supporting Angela’s campaign against Larry?

I get into this a little bit in Allie Cobb book 1, A Literal Mess. The Millers and Cobbs have been family friends for decades. When Allie was in high school, she babysat Angela’s children. While she respects the job Larry has done as mayor, she thinks the world of Angela. It’s not so much being against Larry as being for Angela, in a big way.

Sloane is a professional trail runner. Is there such a thing? Does it pay?

There is! You can find more about trail running at Elite level trail runners can make a living at it, often through endorsement deals. Sloane knows she’s unlikely to make much money at it, but she’s very good with her money. She’s fortunate in that as the sole heir of a best-selling author, she doesn’t have to rely on her trail running income to get by.

Allie finds the body of murder victim Georgie Alonso at the park, which will be named after Sloane and Allie’s fathers. What did Georgie do in high school that contributes to the suspicion that she murdered him?

All through her school-age years, Allie had a thing for Georgie. She was attracted to his bad-boy attitude, despite knowing he would never be interested in a quiet, bookworm like she was. When they were seniors Georgie asked Allie to be his date for the prom. The night of the event, he stood her up, then made fun of her about it the next school day. Word got around town how he humiliated her, which made things even worse. Allie never forgave Georgie, so that’s one reason she’s a suspect in the murder.

Matt Roberson, the police chief and Allie’s ex brother-in-law, makes Allie take two tests to help her prove she couldn’t have committed the murder. What were they and how did they prove she couldn’t have committed the murders?

One of the pieces of evidence in the case is a heavy-duty lock that has been cut open with a bolt cutter. The murderer cut the lock to gain access to a truck that was used in the murder. Matt doesn’t believe Allie is the murderer, but since she found the body and had a bad history with the deceased, Matt wants to thorough in ruling her out as a suspect. The way he does this is by giving Allie a similar bolt cutter and lock and having her demonstrate whether she can cut through the lock. She’s unable to do it, despite her best efforts, which is all the evidence Matt needs to clear Allie.

What caused Allie and her sister, Rachel, to have such a bad relationship?

Rachel is two years older than Allie, so when she was young, Allie wanted to be like her older sister. Rachel and Allie are very different, though, so Rachel looked at Allie as her annoying, nerdy little sister. Rachel, who was very attractive, and her friends often made fun of Allie and her bookish ways. Over time, Allie resented the treatment she got from Rachel. As a teenager, Allie wasn’t emotionally mature enough to ignore the behavior, so it wasn’t until years later, Allie and Rachel began to work through their issues.

Brent, Allie’s boyfriend, installs genealogy equipment in local libraries. What is genealogy equipment, and what does it do?

Basically, it’s computer hardware and software designed to help people research their family histories. Over the last decade or so, there’s been a surge in interest in finding out where we come from. Commercial sites like have done great work to facilitate the search for our roots. Not everyone may have access to paid commercial sites, so libraries have stepped in by offering searchable databases that can be used free of charge.

Sloane went from rags to riches after she inherited from her father. How does she feel about her change in economic status?

She has mixed feelings. After years of alcohol abuse, her father had finally sobered up and they were beginning to build a health relationship. So, on one hand, Sloane regrets having her father taken away from her just as things were getting good. On the other hand, her inheritance allowed her to pursue trail running full-time, so she appreciates her good financial position and the opportunities she now has.

Georgie sued an old boss because he had a wreck on the job driving a truck and got injured. But after the accident, he failed a drug test. But even so, he still was awarded money. Why wouldn’t being under the influence mitigate his getting an award?

This is a great question. Georgie was never one to take responsibility for his actions, so when he was fired, he claimed the reason his employment was terminated wasn’t because he failed a drug test, it was in retaliation for filing a workplace injury claim. There was enough of a question about who was right, that the company’s insurance carrier decided to settle the case instead of taking a chance of losing at trial. It was a decision that Georgie’s former boss wasn’t happy about. Which is how he ended up a suspect in Georgie’s murder.

Is Rugrats still on TV?

Sure is. Several subscription services carry it. Allie watches it on Hulu.

Allie doesn’t trust people, unlike Sloane, who Allie thinks is na├»ve, or her mother, who always thinks the best of everyone. What contributed to her distrust? Was Allie treated unfairly growing up? Does she have a complex about it? A chip on her shoulder?

I think Sloan exudes a childlike zest for life, an innate joyfulness, that Allie admires. Having said that, Allie’s trust issues come from what she perceived as being bullied growing up. She never really found her niche in Rushing Creek, so her distrustfulness came about as a defense mechanism. To her trust is something that must be earned, not freely given.
What is it about walking that helps Allie think?

First off, the exercise is good for her. It also helps her clear her mind, so thoughts and ideas can come and go freely. Most of all, she enjoys it. It puts her in a good mood. When she feels good, she’s a lot more productive.

What is a Gantt Chart?

A Gantt Chart is a tool used in project planning. It’s kind of a cross between a spreadsheet and a calendar. The chart allows someone to plan out a large project, like a home remodeling job, from start to finish. Each individual task can be included in the overall chart at the appropriate time. The chart is used by project managers to make sure tasks are being completed on time, and on budget.

I was confused by your use of the word “subpoena” in getting records of a victim. Why wouldn’t the police get a “warrant” from a judge?

In Indiana, a subpoena is used by the court to order a third party to attend a hearing and/or produce documents. A warrant would be issued by the court for an arrest or to conduct the search of a home or place of business in which a reasonable suspicion of a crime has been committed.

What’s next for Allie?

Allie and the gang will return next January, in A Mysterious Mix Up.
Murder hits the stacks when literary agent Allie Cobb investigates a fatality in the local library…
Allie Cobb returns home from a book conference armed with hugs for her cat and her boyfriend, and dreams of a long, hot bath. She’s also getting ready to take the plunge by hiring an intern for her expanding literary agency. But it’s one for the books when Allie finds the town’s librarian—and her longtime role model—seconds away from death on the library floor. 
Who would want to poison Vicky Napier—one of Rushing Creek’s most beloved citizens—on the eve of her retirement? But it seems there were toxic people in her life, like the handyman with an obsessive crush, and a wood carver with a hair-trigger temper. The list of suspects includes Allie’s boyfriend, Brent, who’s in the running to take over as town librarian. Avenging her friend’s murder could be a trap as she goes up against a killer determined to write Allie’s epitaph…

J.C. Kenney is the author of the Allie Cobb Mysteries, which are set in the fictional small town of Rushing Creek, Indiana. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife, two sons, and a snuggly kitty cat. He loves motor sports, so when he’s not writing, you can probably find him checking in on the latest from IndyCar and other forms of racing.
J.C. is a member of Sisters in Crime. You can find him at, on Twitter at, Facebook at, and on BookBub at  

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What We're Reading Now

Margaret S. Hamilton

Paper Son by S. J. Rozan

If you drive an hour south of Memphis to the Batesville exit and turn west, toward the Mississippi River, you’ll find the small town of Clarksdale. Oxford, home of Ole Miss and William Faulkner, is an hour due east of Clarksdale.

S.J. Rozan sets her latest private investigator Lydia Chin/Bill Smith book in Clarksdale and the Mississippi Delta, an area with a long-established Chinese-American population. After the transcontinental railroad was complete, the Chinese workers went to Mississippi to do field work, and then opened grocery stores in the predominately African-American communities of the Delta (in this part of Mississippi, the Delta is the floodplain to the east of the river,extending from Memphis to Jackson). The Chinese-Americans founded their own schools and became established members of the Delta community.

Lydia Chin’s mother is worried that her Clarksdale cousin, Jefferson Tam, has been arrested for the murder of his father, Leland. Lydia and Bill are assisted by Jefferson’s uncle, Peter Tam. Chinese families are complicated: another cousin, Reynold Tam, whose father married a white woman, is running for governor. “Paper sons” were late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrants who asked naturalized Chinese Americans to file papers identifying them as their sons. In Mississippi, money helped the filing process. They’re considered family, though in many cases were not related.

Rozan establishes an intricate plot with compelling characters to portray the morass of bigotry, drug addiction, and prejudice in the Mississippi Delta. For Lydia and Bill’s first foray outside the New York City area, Rozan succeeds with her accurate portrayal of her private detectives operating in an area completely foreign to them.

Kathleen  Rockwood 

As usual, I have three reads going. One on my Kindle, which I take on public transportation and to doctors’ waiting rooms and anywhere else I think I may have to cool my heels for a while.
One in my car. Since my husband no longer drives but remaining socially active is important, I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting in the car for him. Poker games, bridge games, breakfast with his fellow retirees from work, etc.
The other is my leisure read, which I keep in the house. If it’s compelling enough, it replaces the usual short story anthology on my bedside table.
The Thief of All Light by Bernard Schaffer is a fascinating read. Sometimes I do want to reach into the book and strangle the protagonist, a female cop who wants to be a detective. How could she not know that an officer interrogating a suspect will try to appear to be sympathetic, even in the case of a pedophile who has done dreadful things to children? This is the way to get confessions. She isn’t well self-disciplined, and sometime she skirts with the “too dumb to live” borders. But the story is carrying me right along, and I will continue to read it when I’m depending on my Kindle.
My in-the-car read.
I’ve just started The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch. It’s historic fiction, set in New York City 1n 1799. It’s interesting, and I like the historic details (I’m not familiar enough with those times to know how accurate it is, but it seems good to me) and the characterizations. I haven’t yet really gotten into the plot, and so far it’s not compelling enough to make me want to bring it into the house with me, where I’d have more time to read it.
On my bedside table
Racing the Devil, by the Charles Todd duo, has supplanted the short story anthology I normally have by my bed. Charles Todd is one of my reliable go-to novelists, and Rutledge, despite his somewhat disconcerting paranormal contact with Hamish, is a favorite. It is also a historic novel, set in 1920 in England. I just finished re-reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, set in the same era, and it was a natural next choice.

Susan Van Kirk

I just finished Connie Berry's A Legacy of Murder, and it's a wonderful read for people who like British mysteries about crumbling mansions. [Right down my alley!] Kate Hamilton, an American antiques dealer, is visiting her daughter Christine who is working as an intern at the stately home of Lady Barbara in Long Barston. That home is widely known in the area as Finchley Hall. No sooner does Kate arrive than the body of a murder victim--also an intern--is found in a lake on the Finchley grounds. The murdered intern was working on the Finchley Hoard, a legendary collection of treasures owned by the family through generations. Soon, Lady Barbara persuades Kate to take over the work for a huge celebration when the family opens its house to the public and displays its treasures. This is where the twists, turns, and surprises begin!

I really enjoyed Berry's mystery, the second in her Kate Hamilton series after her debut, A Dream of Death. Her romantic subplot is perfect but not too overwhelming. The main characters are likable and believable, and the minor characters are intriguing, especially an elderly antiques collector who helps Kate with the history of the manor and its earlier murders. Put this book on your "to read" pile when it comes out October 8 from Crooked Lane Books. I read a copy in advance from NetGalley. 

Kaye George

White Heat
White Heat by Paul D. Marks

I can’t recommend this Shamus Award winning novel (and the sequel) enough. The writing is tough where it needs to be, tender at just the right spots. The love Marks has for Los Angeles shines through on every page. The time is 1992. The backdrop is the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. The story delves into crime, race, families, and more as hard-hitting little PI Duke Rogers and his pal Jack push their way through the story. After you’ve read White Heat, you’ll have to read Broken Windows, of course.  

Annette Dashofy

Because I seem to be at least a book behind on all my favorite authors, I just finished reading R. G. Belsky's Yesterday's News (last year's release).

When eleven-year-old Lucy Devlin disappeared on her way to school more than a decade ago, it became one of the most famous missing child cases in history. The story turned Clare Carlson into a media superstar overnight. Clare broke exclusive after exclusive. She had unprecedented access to the Devlin family as she wrote about the heartbreaking search for their young daughter. She later won a Pulitzer Prize for her extraordinary coverage of the case.

Now Clare once again plunges back into this sensational story. With new evidence, new victims, and new suspects--too many suspects. Everyone from members of a motorcycle gang to a prominent politician running for a US Senate seat seem to have secrets they're hiding about what might have happened to Lucy Devlin. But Clare has her own secrets. And, in order to untangle the truth about Lucy Devlin, she must finally confront her own torturous past.

I've always enjoyed Belsky's voice in his previous series, but admit I was worried about his attempt to create a realistic female protagonist. I needn't have been concerned. Clare sounded exactly like Murphy Brown in my head! And his past experience in both print and TV news brings authenticity to the story. There are twists and turns galore with just enough humor to lighten what could otherwise be a very dark subject.

Connie Berry

These days I’m listening to books on Audible more than reading them. With publicity and blogging and working on Book 3, finding time to actually sit and read is difficult. But I can listen while doing boring things like getting ready in the morning, driving, cooking, and doing laundry. Right now I’m listening to an absolutely amazing debut novel—Dear Mrs. Bird by the British author A. J. Pearce.

The story is set in London during the blitz. The protagonist, Emmeline Lake, dreams of being a war correspondent. Through a comedy of errors, she takes a typing job at a women’s magazine under the redoubtable “agony aunt” Henrietta Bird, whose moral standards preclude any mention of Unpleasantness—like dating, kissing, falling in love, or *gasp* going too far and getting oneself in the family way. At the same time, Emmy volunteers with the London Fire Brigade and may or may not be falling in love with a soldier on the front lines. I must say, I’m in love with this writer’s voice and the skillful way she uses language. Pearce is a rising star, and I can’t wait for her next book.

Marilyn Levinson

I just finished reading The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali. In the early 1950's, a young couple fall in love during their visits to a stationery shop in Tehran. They become engaged, but are    cruelly separated by the young man's deranged mother. We learn of the mother's unhappy love affair when she was young. A wonderful story of love that lasts through decades.

 Linda Rodriguez

I am currently reading two books, The Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin and An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten (translated by Marlaine Delargy). The first one is the omnibus collection of the two novels in N.K. Jemisin’s Dreamblood fantasy series. Jemison has won all the major awards in fantasy and science fiction, and I've read all of her other books, so I was excited to see a deal on the e-book omnibus version of this series that has been out of print. I've just started this one, but I can recommend Jemison for anyone who's interested in superb worldbuilding, really marvelous character development, and lots of thought-provoking questions about society and our world.

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten, a Swedish author, is a delightful book about an elderly Swedish woman who decides to start doing away with everyone who irritates her or gets in her way. She gets to be quite successful at the murder of convenience. This book was a truly thoughtful gift from a dear friend to thank me for some small favor I had done for her. I have had so much fun reading it bit by bit and savoring the characterization and the subtle wit.

Shari Randall 

Right now I'm reading - and savoring - Kate Atkinson's newest Jackson Brodie mystery, Big Sky. Atkinson, who is well known for her more literary standalones, packs so much into each book - allusion, humor, turns of phrase and characterization of absolute perfection - that I never want them to end. Jackson is a private investigator in Edinburgh, a former soldier and cop who struggles to understand his teenage son, Nathan, and brilliant TV actress wife, Julia. When he relocates to a quiet seaside town, Jackson takes what looks like a hum drum adultery case which turns into so much more.

The books were turned into the Case Histories TV series and Jackson Brodie was played by Jason Isaacs, famous for his turn as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, which adds another layer to be savored reading this book.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Slightly Accurate History of Writing Tools by Nancy Eady

On Saturday, July 27, Kait Carson discussed the tools she used for writing, which led me to look at the history of writing tools. With apologies to the true historians in our group, here is a loose history of writing implements.

The first writing was recorded on cave walls, monuments and stone. Imagine the genius of those earliest writers who were ordered to record information in a permanent, portable medium. The alphabet, papyrus, reed pen and ink had to be invented.

Ancient Egyptians, required by ancient law to invent the first of everything unless the Chinese called dibs, rose to the challenge with papyrus and reed pens. The alphabet took longer.

According to legend, a well-traveled Phoenician captain-merchant, named Ahumm (“brother of the sea”) came home from a hard day of translating Egyptian hieroglyphs, ancient Hebrew, Linear Script A & B, Induscript, Etruscan, Cretan hieroglyphs and Sumerian cuneiform. When he came home, his wife asked him to translate a prescription she had received from a Sumerian physician in the area (illegible signatures and handwriting part of medicine even then).  Ahumm threw up his hands in disgust, decided there had to be a better way, and promptly invented the alphabet, including, for the first time, written vowels. Vowels were the most startling innovation of the new alphabet, the excellency of which is demonstrated by comparing: “Jk rn bhnd th cws” with “Jack ran behind the cows.”   (Poets, especially, were grateful. The word “cows” is much easier to rhyme then “cws.”)  The alphabet arrived just in time for the invention of ancient literature.

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were first composed and perfected orally and performed that way for at least 400 years. That changed when Scriptogoras, a wandering bard, suffered a crippling attack of laryngitis, ending a promising career. Since neither unemployment benefits nor Social Security Disability existed, Scripto, as his friends called him, combined the new writing inventions with the new alphabet to produce written copies of both the Iliad and Odyssey, a wildly popular innovation.

Writers used reed pens and papyrus for over 1000 years, but around 600 A.D., a local writer’s group in Spain (also known as “a monastery”) looked at the calendar and noticed that “The Dark Ages” began seventeen days earlier. Looking up “The Rules” for “The Dark Ages,” they were dismayed to learn that rule number twelve mandated that imports from Rome and other distant places would no longer arrive regularly.  They almost despaired, since neither hard reeds nor the papyrus plant were found locally. Since, like all writers, they could not stop writing, they looked for alternatives. Parchment was already available, although not as popular as papyrus, but no one knows which adventurous person first picked up a feather, dumped the end in ink and started scribbling away. Current scholarship suggests that the quill person was descended from the braver soul who watched a bird lay an egg and proclaimed, “I’ll eat that!”

The quill pen remained popular until the mid-1800’s, an unmatched run of 1200+ years. However, its fellow medium, parchment, declined rapidly in popularity once China exercised their “first invention” option for paper - which explains why the Egyptians settled for papyrus - and later allowed the papermaking process to reach the Middle East. “Given” to the Islamic world by Chinese prisoners - the description of the donors calls into question the voluntary nature of the gift - the paper-making process jumped to southern Spain, controlled by the Islamic Moors. It took 120 years for someone in northern Spain to realize the South had a good thing going, but from there, papermaking spread through Europe.

In the mid-1850’s, the quill lost its preeminence. Fierce debates exist between scholars about the reasons for the quill’s declining popularity after 1200 years—did the increase in literacy outstrip the supply of big feathers? Did the Birds Union finally put their feet down, their wings up and flee lest their members become completely naked?  Did a writer (or writer’s spouse) say, “You know, writing this way is really, really messy; let’s find a better way?”
Whatever the reason, quill pens gave way to steel nib pens. Nib pens, like quills, required the author to dip the pen into the ink bottle every five words, which explains the unpopularity of “stream of consciousness” styles. Then, in 1850, Lewis Edson Waterman lost a major insurance sale because of a leaky pen and decided to invent the fountain pen. History does not record how successful in insurance Mr. Waterman was, but as a pen dude, he rocked.  The fountain pen sparked even more innovation, a/k/a the ballpoint pen.

The final stage of the mechanization of the writing process began with the invention of the typewriter. The first commercially successful typewriter with a QWERTY keyboard was produced in 1873. Manual typewriters were heavy and loud, but oh so fun to use. In my family, we have one manual typewriter that has been used by five generations!  Granted the last two generations, myself and my daughter, mainly played with it rather than type anything serious; we still touched keys that made metal rods strike a ribbon to make an imprint of a letter on paper. In the 1980s, computers changed everything, which brings us back to Kait and Scrivener…

The Fifth Generation

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Who’s a Hybrid?

by Kaye George

I’m new here, and I’d like to give a sort of intro, in case readers of Writers Who Kill don’t know me.

So, who’s a hybrid? Me, that’s who. 

Yes, I’m a hybrid genetically, claiming about ten different nationalities in my ancestral line. But I’m also one as a writer. What IS a hybrid? One definition is a writer who publishes through a traditional press and also self-publishes. I’ll go one better.

Big, little, and none, are the three I define. I have a series out with a biggie, Penguin Random House (which would be so much more fun if it were called Random Penguin).   
My three Fat Cat mysteries, written as Janet Cantrell, were published there and did very well. How could they not? They were on bookshelves across the country and even Walmart picked up the first one. That’s the BIG. Someday I’d like to get another series with them. Until then…

LITTLE: small presses. I’ve been with Untreed Reads for the two novels in my People of the Wind Neanderthal mystery series, as well as some short stories, as well as inclusion in some of their anthologies. They are terrific to work with and I couldn’t ask for a better team.

I’ve been with two other small presses that aren’t around any more. That’s the hazard of small presses. But, to be honest, Berkley Prime Crime, the “Random Penguin” imprint, doesn’t exist any more either.

I need to mention a couple of others, too. One I’m pleased with is Wildside Press. I don’t have any novels with them, but they’ve been terrific about publishing short story anthologies I’ve had a hand in, also the one I put together myself in honor of the total eclipse that happened in my very own yard. Recently, they put out a “thrillogy” of three related Imogene Duckworthy stories that had been published in various places. Their Black Cat Mystery Magazine has published me, too.

The second one is Darkhouse Books, which has included me in one anthology and will do so again in October. I have material published at a few more, also.

NONE: that’s me. One series that was with a small press is my Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas line. I’ll admit it was fun taking over, redoing covers and advertising that the first one, Choke, had been nominated for an Agatha Award. That was something the publisher hadn’t felt was important—one reason we parted ways! I’ve also self-published a collection of short stories and some individual stories.

I’m looking for a new publisher for the other series that was with a small press, my Cressa Carraway Musical Mysteries. That is, my agent it looking. If that doesn’t work, I’ll be self-publishing another series. There are more things in the pipeline that I’m sure I’ll tell you about when they emerge.

It’s always something!

photos from by ImBoo Too, quicksandala, anthot4, Fidler Jan

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tools of the Trade by Kait Carson

Before the age of computers, a writer’s tools consisted of a simple pen and paper. The process took the form of write, edit, re-write, edit, and finally, type the finished product for submission. Sure, a writer could opt to type from the start, and many did, but typewriters were loud in those days, keys clacked, and jammed, interrupting the story world. Corrections were made with a gritty pencil-like tool that had a brush on the end and often resulted in holes in the paper.

In the 1980s, personal computers made their debut. There was no wide-scale access to the Internet to offer a distraction, and the keyboards were semi-silent. Plus, editing was a breeze. No more rewriting entire passages that passed muster, instead, cut and paste! A writer’s dream come true.

The Internet opened up the writer’s world to writing programs. I tried one named Dramatica. If a writer had a story or character problem, the program had a feature that provided a potential solution. Several writers I knew used it and loved it. Unfortunately, it proved too option rich for me.

Microsoft Word became my weapon of choice for writing. It had its limitations, cut and paste were unwieldly when the manuscript was novel length. Moving scenes and maintaining continuity proved difficult and creating multiple files for each aspect of the novel often meant spending more time going back and forth in the directory tree than writing. The search and replace functions were heaven sent. If only someone would invent a writing program, I thought, that let you have everything in one place and allowed for an easy story reorganization.

Enter Scrivener. The program was everything I dreamed about in a writing program. It’s perfect for pantsers and plotters. Each chapter or scene (depending on how you write) has index cards that can be used for listing the highlights of the scene. Master index cards can help outline the novel before you write. Best of all, if Chapter 3 needs to be Chapter 10, drag, drop, and done. There are sections for a story bible, character lists, settings, and research on the same screen as the manuscript. Scrivener allows the writer to be the architect of their own writing environment.

Literature and Latte, the publisher of Scrivener, also makes Scapple. The definition of the word scapple hails from the stonecutting industry and means to work roughly without finishing. Scapple isn’t a writing program, it’s a mind map program. I’m using it to show the relationships among my characters to determine if any are walk-ons who need to be cut. The map includes each character’s motive, means, and opportunity for the murder and demonstrates if the clues and red herrings do their jobs. It’s a shorthand way to uncover any outliers and either develop or discard them to tighten the story.

From pen and paper to pixels and bytes, a writer’s tools have expanded. None is right for every writer, but the options are exciting. Do you use any writing programs? Have you found they aided or invaded your writing?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Advice from Stephen King You Might not Have Heard Before by Warren Bull

Advice from Stephen King You Might not Have Heard Before by Warren Bull

Image from Joseph J Cotton on Upsplash

Of course, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft should be in every writer’s library. His advice is as practical as it is memorable. For example:

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When you find something at which you have talent, you do that thing (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes pop out of your head.”—On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

But there are other ways to learn about writing from the master storyteller. One of them is to read his fiction and search for the gems about reading and therefore about writing that he scatters throughout. 

“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story…don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words—the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”—Hearts in Atlantis

Take chances as a writer.

“For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it, but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels.”—Finders Keepers

Write from joy.

“A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”—Skeleton Crew

Different type of writing requite different skills.

“Come to a book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it, and draw your own map…A book is like a pump. It gives nothing unless first you give to it. ”—Hearts in Atlantis

Give your imagination a chance to lead.

“When a long book succeeds, the writer and reader are not just having an affair; they are married.”—The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Write from love.

“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not. Time takes it all, bears it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.”—The Green Mile

Don’t wait for inspiration. The only time to write is now.

“No great thing is created suddenly.”—Doctor Sleep

It takes as long as it takes. Good writing cannot be hurried.

“The most important things are the hardest things to say.”—The Body

Writing is rewriting.

“It ain’t the blows we’re dealt that matter. It’s the ones we survive.” — Rose Madder

A writer writes. Persistence outperforms talent in the long run.

Whose writing have you learned from?